Worthwhile risks

Tony G looks at how to make sure you’re in the right situation before you try to steal the blinds, and explains how to defend against a stealer

Stealing is a very fine art, and it’s important to understand your individual situation, and whether you need to steal. You have to consider your chip stack and the players at your table. Can you steal from them? Can you re-steal from them? Or should you just play tight and wait for good hands to come your way?

If you find a table at which you can steal, you need to choose your situation carefully. For example, it’s possible to steal holding 8-3os in the cut-off position by raising and hoping everyone folds. However, you have to consider whether there’s enough money in the pot and how much you have to commit.

Think about stealing in poker like it’s investing in the stock market. You’re putting in some money and you want to get a return on your investment. You aren’t going to invest 10,000 chips to get 500 only to suddenly find out your opponent has Aces, as there’s no value there whatsoever.

Let’s say you have 10,000 chips and the blinds are 500/1000 with an 100 ante. You would need to commit 30%of your chips to make a steal here. However, with 2,400 in the pot (blinds and antes at a nine-handed table), it’s probably good value to commit 3,000 to try to steal. As long as the players at your table are playing tight and you think you can make the steal, this move represents good value. Furthermore, with only 30%of your chips committed on this hand, you can still lay it down if you end up getting reraised.

The key is to keep in mind the size of your stack. For example, lets say you’re in the same situation, but you only have 6,000 and decide to put in your 3,000 with 8:-3;.Now, if you get reraised all-in, you probably have to call with all the money in the pot.

You always should think a few steps ahead and whether you’ll call any reraise. I tend to know these things before I take the initial action: it’s premeditated. It can look ugly at times, but you’ve worked it out and you know what you’re going to do because you thought ahead when you were taking your initial action. Thinking ahead is key in all of aspects poker, especially in this type of situation.


You must understand how much you’re trying to steal and whether your opponents at the table are going to let you get away with it. For me, the rule is 30%. If you have 10,000, think about getting 30%on your money; I’ll put my 10,000 all-in if I can get 3,000. You also have to assess your situation: sometimes in the small blind, the odds could be really high – maybe 90%– that your opponent will fold if you steal. However, make sure you’re getting your 30%. If the money isn’t out there, it’s often not worth it. I fold these hands all the time.

Poker is about finding good situations. I’m not out there to steal every pot if I don’t like the situation. If the table is tough and people are figuring out what you’re doing, you’ll need to slow down and pick your spots better. Raising on the button all the time, which many amateurs feel is the right thing to do, isn’t a good policy. Your opponents may perceive that you’re stealing and they’ll make a move on you. If you’re on the button and stealing against my big blind, I’ll often look to push all-in. I’ll often have the best hand here, but even if I don’t, it will be tough for you to call.

There are more sophisticated ways to defend against the steal, too. If you’re in the big blind and you think someone is stealing from you, you can flat-call the raise and then bet out on any flop. The odds are that you’ll make money in the long run, as it’s difficult for the stealer to connect with the flop. This assumes he doesn’t have a good hand. You do have to use some discretion here, so maybe slow down a bit if an Ace hits. Another benefit of defending against the steal is the raiser might think twice before he raises your big blind again.

Another play you should have in your arsenal is the re-steal. You have to use this more judiciously, but it can often really add to your stack. One situation I really like for re-stealing is if I’m on the button or in one of the blinds, and there has been a raise and a call. I might go all-in here as long as I am getting the magic 30%on my money. The key for this play is I must be able to put the initial raiser on a weak hand. If I can do that, I’ll make this play a lot.

The main thing to remember about stealing is to look for situations, look for positions, look for players. Poker is about swimming within the currents. If the current is flowing against you, then you must adjust. If there’s a part of the stream that’s flowing well, spend a lot of your time there. Put yourself into the flow of the game, pick your steal situations carefully and you’ll get away with it more often than your opponents.

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